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Bubbles, tests and social-distancing, those are the keys to cycling’s return to competition next month in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.
The UCI released medical guidelines Friday that will serve as a template for teams, organizers, race officials, media, and fans across men’s and women’s road racing. The hope is that the protocols and mitigation will help open the door for competition to resume for the first time since March.
Respective national health authorities will have the final word, but the UCI document creates a blueprint for cycling’s key stakeholders as the sport prepares to resume racing in the coming weeks in the midst of a world pandemic.
“This protocol of instructions and recommendations is fundamental, especially for the teams and organizers, with a view to the resumption of cycling races,” said UCI president David Lappartient. “These measures remain dependent on the laws and measures in the different host countries and may need to be adapted, but this protocol is another step towards our sport’s return to life.”
Most of the protocols apply directly to the race entourage, so larger questions about how and where fans might be able to watch a race will fall to the relevant local authorities.
Click here to read the full document.
Right now, Europe is the focus of the calendar, where health conditions have improved dramatically over the past several weeks. The document comes as racing is set to resume in late July, though some national championships, including this weekend’s Slovenian races, begin even sooner.
More details will be forthcoming, but the general plan is to test everyone before a race, split teams into “bubbles” to maintain social distancing, and then have a working plan in place if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
The guidelines also include a series of steps and protocols for teams and organizers to follow that will be based on the degree of risk at the time as well as local conditions on the ground.
UCI officials have been collaborating with team doctors and race organizers over the past several weeks to try to create a plan that follows the lead from world health authorities, but that is also flexible and responsive enough to fit into what will likely be unique and possibly evolving conditions across different countries that are part of the UCI’s sprawling race calendar.
Here are a few key takeaways:
>> Riders and staffers will be tested by teams before starting any race. Teams will operate within groups called “bubbles” that include riders, staffers, and other personnel. Those groups will enter a larger “peloton bubble” during the race. The idea is to try to keep track of everyone in the larger entourage that accompanies any bike race.
>> A “COVID czar” will be appointed by each race organizer to coordinate all mitigation plans, and be the lead contact for any developing situation.
>> Health controls will be conducted throughout races, with social distancing rules designed to limit contact between distinct groups. A series of protocols will be introduced based on the level of risk, and for different aspects of a race, be it before, during and after a race. Guidelines will also be set up for the completion of anti-doping controls.
>> In case of a positive COVID-19 case, the patient will be transported to a local hospital, and protocols will be based on rules and guidelines from local health authorities.
There are still a lot of questions and more details to be revealed, but the health protocols mark the latest step in cycling’s efforts to revive racing in unprecedented conditions.